5 Quick Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

As technology advances every day for all of us to enjoy, it is also continuing to advance for criminals and crooks to use for identity theft. Being knowledgeable of the threat is a huge step toward protecting yourself. Millions of people fall victim to identity theft every year, and here at The Money Mill, we do not want our readers to be one of them. Read these quick tips and try to use them in your life to avoid the frustration, resentment, and emotional toll of being a victim of identity theft.

1. Destroy anything that includes sensitive information.

Is it weird that I asked for a shredder for Christmas? I shred just about everything that I get in the mail. It’s a habit that I picked up from helping my Nana do it when I was really little, but now I see that she was on to something. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was heading to a Red Sox game, waiting for the T and watched someone take what looked like a bill in an envelope out of the trash – in front of so many people! He looked it over for a few minutes and then dropped it back in the trash. It’s hard to imagine that someone would want to go through trash to steal your information, but I’ve now seen it happen with my own eyes. So the moral of this mini-story is when in doubt, shred, shred, shred!!

Mailboxes in Sweden2. Use a mailbox you trust. 

Another physical way to protect yourself from identity theft is to make sure the mailbox you use is safe. Credit card offers constantly show up in your mailbox. If these wind up in a thief’s hands, it could be very harmful to your credit score. Additionally, if you don’t think you can leave outgoing mail that includes a check or personal information in your home mailbox, drop it in a public mailbox instead.

3. Monitor your credit report.

Many of us are very busy with work, families, and everyday lives. However, it is important to stop and remember to check your credit report to make sure there is nothing suspicious on it. Make sure there are only addresses listed for where you have lived, it shows only your employers (current and previous), and only correct accounts that you have opened. If you see something you don’t recognize, it’s best to start resolving the issue as fast as possible. To dispute an error, you will need to contact the credit bureau that is reporting the incorrect information.

You are entitled to 1 free credit report per year, which you can get from www.annualcreditreport.com. There are 3 bureaus that report your credit – Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. I’ve made it a habit to check 1 bureau’s report every 4 months. That way, I can check my credit report for free 3 times in a year. (Notice I didn’t suggest using www.freecreditreport.com? The fact is, it’s really not free. You are signed up for their credit monitoring service once you check your credit report.)

locked-padlock_GkworLUu_L4. Use the internet wisely.

If you’re on a public Wi-Fi connection, it probably isn’t a good idea to do any transactions or log any personal information on the internet. Try to wait until you are home on your own secure Wi-Fi network. Do your best to wait until you are on your own network at home to do your online banking, make a credit card payment, or even to use your credit card to buy something online. When shopping online, or doing anything with credit card or account numbers, make sure to check for the lock on search bar. This shows that it is a secure website. To me it’s better to be safe than sorry!

5. Check your bank account.

I constantly monitor my bank accounts for numerous reasons. One important reason is to make sure that everything I see in my account is something I did. A few years ago, I looked at my account and had hundreds of dollars in charges in 1 day from a grocery store in Texas. I was in Boston when it happened, (and have never been to Texas!) so I immediately called my credit union. They shut my card off right away and stopped the thieves from spending more of my money. The next day I stopped by a branch to fill out an affidavit and received my money shortly after. Had I not checked my account, my checking account could have been used even more by that person.

The fact that people attempt to steal others’ identities is absolutely maddening. However, protecting yourself is the best defense you can have. Knowledge and awareness of the threat will help you avoid becoming a victim! 

Do you have any tips to share on protecting yourself from identity theft? Leave them in the comments so others can use them too!

 

5 Responses to “5 Quick Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

  • dbouchard13
    1 year ago

    A few more tips to prevent identify theft.
    1) Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.
    2) Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer
    3) Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Opt into multi-factor authentication if it is available.
    4) Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.

    • Kaelagh Haley
      1 year ago

      Thanks for the great tips!

    • Amanda Bridge
      1 year ago

      Thanks for the very helpful extra tips! Be sure to share this article on Facebook or Twitter using #TheMoneyMill to get your t-shirt 🙂

  • Another tip I’d like to add, especially useful with the holidays around the corner. When shopping for presents for Xmas online, make sure to only buy from reputable web sites! You’d be surprised how many fly-by-night companies pop up around the holidays. If you’re giving your credit card information to someone for a purchase, you need to know who you’re dealing with.

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